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Armed guards at India's dams as drought grips country

Government says 330 million people are suffering from water

shortages after monsoons fail
As young boys plunge into a murky dam to escape the blistering
afternoon sun, armed guards stand vigil at one of the few remaining
water bodies in a state hit hard by Indias crippling drought.

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Desperate farmers from a neighbouring state regularly attempt to

steal water from the Barighat dam, forcing authorities in central
Madhya Pradesh to protect it with armed guards to ensure supplies.
India is officially in the grip of its worst water crisis in years, with
the government saying that about 330 million people, or a quarter
of the population, are suffering from drought after the last two
monsoons failed.
Water is more precious than gold in this area, Purshotam Sirohi,
who was hired by the local municipality to protect the dam, in
Tikamgarh district, told AFP.
We are protecting the dam round the clock.
But the security measures cannot stop the drought from ravaging
the dam, with officials saying it holds just one month of reserves.
Four reservoirs in Madhya Pradesh have already dried up, leaving
more than a million people with inadequate water and forcing
authorities to bring in supplies using trucks.
Almost a 100,000 residents in Tikamgarh get piped water for just
two hours every fourth day, while municipal authorities have
ordered new bore wells to be dug to meet demand.
But it may not be enough, with officials saying the groundwater
level has receded more than 100 feet (30 metres) owing to less
than half the average annual rainfall in the past few years.
The situation is really critical, but we are trying to provide water to
everyone, Laxmi Giri Goswami, chairwoman of Tikamgarh
municipality, told AFP.

We pray to rain gods for mercy, she said.

In the nearby village of Dargai Khurd, only one of 17 wells has

With temperatures hovering around 45C, its 850 residents fear they
may soon be left thirsty.
If it dries up, we wont have a drop of water to drink, said Santosh

Kumar, a local villager.

Farmers across India rely on the monsoon a four-month rainy
season which starts in June to cultivate their crops, as the country
lacks a robust irrigation system.
Two weak monsoons have resulted in severe water shortages and
crop losses in as many as 10 states, prompting extreme measures
including curfews near water sources and water trains sent to the
worst-affected regions.
Many farmers are now moving to cities and towns to work as
labourers to support their families.
At a scruffy, makeshift camp in north Mumbai, in one of the worstaffected states, dozens of migrants who have fled their droughtstricken villages queue to fill plastic containers with water
Migrants from rural areas usually come to the city in January or
February to get jobs on construction sites, but people were still
arriving in March and April.
There are some 300-350 families here. Thats a total of more than

1,000 people, said Sudhir Rane, a volunteer running the camp in

Mumbais Ghatkopar suburb. There is a drought and there is no
water back home so more families have come here this year.
Families are allocated a small space in the dusty wasteland, where
rickety tented homes are made from wooden posts and tarpaulin
We had no choice but to come here. There was no water, no grain,
no work. There was nothing to eat and drink. What could we do?
said 70-year-old Manubai Patole. We starved for five days. At least
here we are getting food.
Weather forecasters in New Delhi this month predicted an aboveaverage monsoon, offering a ray of hope for the countrys millions
of farmers and their families.
But many, like Gassiram Meharwal from Bangaye village in Madhya
Pradesh, are not optimistic as they struggle to cultivate their crops.
Meharwals two-acre farm has suffered three wheat crop failures in

as many years, costing him an estimated 100,000 rupees ($1,500

or 1,000).
Our fields are doomed, they have almost turned into concrete, he
Thousands of acres of land in his village go uncultivated and fears
are mounting for the cattle, which face a shortage of fodder.
Desperate for income, 32-year-old Meharwal, who supports eight
members of his family including his children and younger brothers,
left to work as a labourer in the city of Gwalior, four hours away.
There is no guarantee that it will rain this year. Predictions are fine
but no one comes to your help when the crops fail, he said.
It is better to use your energy breaking stones.